Just two years ago the 13-inch MacBook Pro was the most exciting laptop Apple had ever launched. Fast-forward to today and things have changed a bunch, with Apple's 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro becoming more a laptop of two halves: it's the first to embody the company's latest M2 processor, but it maintains the older Touch Bar-touting chassis.
So what does that all add up to? I've been living with and reviewing the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro for the past seven days, and while I initially expected it to be like buying a second-hand car, it turns out it's more like buying a classic that's been modded with a beefy turbocharger (albeit a darn quiet one). Sure, there's some old quirks to get on board with, but that's ok.
The 2022 MacBook Pro will be the Touch Bar's last outing in Appleland, but as I've come to realise: whether you're on board with this touch-controlled strip or not is a moot point, because you can either get on board and use it constantly and love it, or largely avoid using it at all.
The bigger question for most people is going to be about context: should you buy the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro when last years' 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models are more potent and feature a newer design, while the forthcoming MacBook Air M2 delivers much the same in a slimmer modern design for less money? Here I'll explore all those points and more in this MacBook Pro M2 review...
Apple MacBook Pro M2 review: Price and release date
So let's talk price. Just how much will the MacBook Pro M2 set you back? Its on-sale asking price from its 24 June 2022 release date is £1,349/$1,299/AUD$1,899 – meaning it's a three-figure rise over its 13-inch M1 predecessor and, compared to the incoming and all-new MacBook Air M2, it's pricier still (£100 more in the UK, for example).
How you see that is all about context though. The M2 Pro one-ups its M2 Air cousin by adding a cooling fan and by default it's got a 10-core GPU (over the 8-core GPU in the entry-level Air). So if you're looking to entertain more graphically demanding tasks then the 13-inch Pro earns its higher price tag without venturing into the two-grand price arena.
That said, if you're seeking a giant leap in power then the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro options from 2021 offer the even more powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max configurations, which are a step above the M2, plus these (ironically older) models adopt the all-new design language and therefore don't look as dated – but the resulting price is a lot, lot more. So it really depends on your needs.
Apple MacBook Pro M2 review: What's new?
Much as we all want to be excited about new kit and all the goodies that can bring, here's the part where I flip the 'what's new?' question on its head. Because, really, the 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 is more a question of what's not new.
If you've seen a 13-inch MacBook Pro in the last couple of years then everything here will be familiar. The 2022 chassis is identical to the 2020 one, complete with Touch Bar – the touch-sensitive strip that replaces the F-keys above the number row – which is living out its final days in last hurrah form here. I really don't expect the Touch Bar legacy will live on.
The Touch Bar isn't the only oddity, however, as Apple hasn't tweaked many of the other hardware aspects on board the 2022 model: the Pro's screen maintains the dated larger bezel format; the built-in webcam is still only 720p (even the 2022 MacBook Air trumps that with a 1080p one); and there are no fancy new speakers (a la MacBook Air M2 with its quad output), no more ports (just the two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 here) or anything else to shout about.
The obvious major new feature, of course, is that Apple has squeezed the M2 processor inside. That, quite simply, is the 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro's biggest sell, its lifeline if you will, as it's the first to bring the latest Apple silicon to the party. It does so in a well-regarded design format, too, and one that's cheaper than the newer 14-inch MacBook Pro design, so the question of price also plays a big part.
I've often been given budgets from which to buy work-related laptops and on that basis alone I'd probably be one customer more likely to buy this 13-inch model over the fancier newer designs (rather than reaching into my own pocket to make up the difference). So while many will write-off this model as dated and done, I think the 2022 MacBook Pro does still have its own appeal (albeit more niche than its once best-selling position).
Apple MacBook Pro M2 review: Screen, speakers, spec
And let's not forget: the standard that Apple had already reached in its MacBooks even by 2020 was pretty astounding. Not always at an on-paper spec level, but certainly in an in-the-flesh delivery format. So this 2022 MacBook Pro takes on all that was good about its past and, honestly, I still think it feels just about fresh enough (noting that feeling won't last when subsequent releases follow in 2023, I suspect).
As someone who typically uses an Intel MacBook Air (my M1 had to go back, sad face) and Microsoft Surface Laptop side-by-side (yes, I'm a weirdo, I know), the jump between the former Apple model and this 2022 MacBook Pro is significant. Much of which, for me, comes down to the screen.
I've used heaps of laptops over the years; I've reviewed product into triple-figure volumes over the past decade, so I know all too well that companies release devices will all manner of mega-bezels, weirdly placed cameras, etcetera. The MacBook Pro doesn't try to do anything zany: it's just a usable, sensible, nicely designed laptop that happens to be a smidge older-looking than some of its contemporaries.
But I can let that go, because despite bezel that's clearly to excess in today's environment (this is no Dell XPS series), the M2 MacBook Pro's screen is really accomplished. The 2560 x 1600 resolution doesn't hit 4K like some Windows competitors, but it still looks superb, is good enough for 1080p video editing with surrounding editing tools, and the degree of clarity and brightness here is everything I need. Oh, and there's no notch like the newer MacBook Pro models, which I'm still on the fence about, but think is my preference (I said the same about phones in the past, mind, so prepare for me to change my mind on that come next year).
Despite the MacBook Pro M2 not deploying new speakers – the MacBook Air M2 goes all fancy with quad speakers (which I'm yet to hear in person) – the upfiring stereo arrangement via those drilled holes through the left and right of the Pro's chassis still sounds elegant. Not that I often utilise them to blare out my tunes, as a good Bluetooth connection serves my latest headphones well.
In summary: no, the 2022 MacBook Pro with M2 doesn't step the design language forward, so it could easily be called old hat, but if you bought and used it for a year right now then I think it'll still feel up to date enough. Or maybe you're just a diehard Touch Bar fan and can't bear to see it go...
Apple MacBook Pro M2 review: Performance
While there's little to nothing to really rave about from a new new perspective, the innards of the MacBook Pro M2 really do step things up a notch. As the initial delivery of Apple's M2, it's the performance potential that is hands down the major selling point of the 2022 Pro model.
So just how much better is it? As one assessment I've run Geekbench tests and the M2 MacBook Pro chalks up a 1870 single core assessment and 8252 multi-core result. Compared to T3's 2020 M1 MacBook Pro test (1732 and 7590 equivalents, respectively), that puts the M2 Pro a healthy eight-to-nine percent up in compute power.
Doesn't sound huge, I know, knowbut this newer architecture is also more power efficient, so you can get the same or more but with less power consumption. GPU results are even higher, at 25,400 (or 29,173 using Apple Metal – something that'll become even more relevant as there's more compatibility in the future).
I can shout out various numbers until the cows come home, of course, and you may remain unimpressed. Performance, let's face it, is far more to do with real-world scenarios. And it's here that I've been blown away with how much better M2 feels to use compared to the M1.
Case in point: loading some 27 16-megapixel photos from a digital camera into Photoshop was effectively instant. Doing so on my older M1 and I'd watch each load into its own window before moving to the next. This seems way beyond a nine percent improvement from my perspective. Small, yet meaningful to someone like me.
In addition there's a fan within the M2 MacBook Pro. Apple doesn't like to call it 'a fan', though, it's instead known as an 'active cooling system', perhaps to try and swerve your attention away from the fact that there could be some noise in operation when using this laptop.
That said, I've struggled to get the M2 MacBook Pro's fan to kick in to crazy levels. Even when it's active it's not loud. Which is a breath of fresh air compared to my Surface Laptop, which will kick its fan in at seemingly full speed simply when plugged into a wall socket. Sounds small, but it's not, it's things like this that'd make me go to Mac over Windows.
Apple MacBook Pro M2 review: Battery life
Whether the fan is off or quietly in operation, however, I've also been blown away with just how good the M2 MacBook Pro 13-inch's battery life has proven to be. Apple did shout about how much better it was going to be at its annual WWDC conference, but that's the company's job to make everyone believe. I was skeptical, until I've reaped the benefits in actual use.
I'm writing this very review on a plane flying across the Atlantic. I've been up since 6am, using the machine non-stop, and it's now 1pm. Some seven hours in and the battery is just shy of 60 percent on its measure. I've got 40 browser tabs open, seven apps running, and I've been streaming Bluetooth to my headphones over lunch for the past hour.
In short: the M2's power and consumption balance is pretty mind-blowing stuff. I've been getting 14 hours of work of largely browser-based work without compromise and without needing to adjust any settings or brightness. Tweak things and you can get even longer, of course, though whether truly to Apple's claimed 20 hours is a bit of a stretch. Go harder with your demands and it'll be less, of course, but even with some more intense GPU operations you'll get good innings from this machine.
Overall, I feel the M2 MacBook Air surfs the line between longevity and power really well. If you're super keen on getting M2 and thinking instead about buying a MacBook Air M2, note that the latter's thinner and fanless design might compromise your intents to some degree (I'm yet to test it in person, so it'll be interesting to see when that arrives).
Apple MacBook Pro M2 review: Verdict
The 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 processor is, as I laid out up top of this review, a game of two halves: it delivers next-level power (albeit less than M1 Pro or M1 Max) thanks to its M2 processor, but in an older chassis design with the on-its-way-out Touch Bar feature and broader bezels than your current average.
However, that's not all bad: the M2 MacBook Pro's design is a best seller, a classic if you like, and its size ratio and price point will ensure that it holds appeal for a certain user. Sure, you'll go with the MacBook Air M2 if you want a slimmer, leaner, more affordable and fanless design, but if you need more GPU power with cooling then the default Pro offers that bonus.
While I thought the MacBook Pro M2 was going to be like buying a second hand car, it turns out I was wrong: its like using a classic that's been quietly modded with a turbocharger. Its battery life is insanely good, its power is right up there (delivered effortlessly too), and while the pricier 14-inch MacBook Pro from 2021 and forthcoming M2 MacBook Air are obvious alternatives that'll suit more people even better, there's still life in this MacBook Pro yet.
As said up top, how you perceive the MacBook Pro M2 is all about context. Want even more power? Look to the 14-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Pro), which features more power, a newer design, no Touch Bar, but will cost you a lot more (by around 50 percent).
If you're not looking for more power, but find the Pro M2's design offputting then you'll be wanting the MacBook Air M2 instead. It's not quite as powerful, in graphics terms, but it's marginal. Besides, it's slimmer, cheaper, and a better day-to-day Mac for most people who aren't looking for the 'pro' level.